The Automotive Amanojaku

This is where you'll find news, random car-related thoughts and personal views from a rabid car nut. "Amanojaku" is Japanese slang that means "person who is deliberately contradictory". I've always found myself drawn to the less appreciated car makes - the "underdogs" if you will. Suzuki, Pontiac, GM Daewoo and Holden, are among my favorite brands to watch and comment on. Let me hear your thoughts!

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Other GM Brands: Wholly Owned GM Subsidiary Holden of Australia

The Other GM Brands #2:Wholly Owned GM Subsidiary Holden of Australia
The Other Holdens - A Primer
By Ming

We have the Pontiac GTO and Vauxhall Monaro to thank for increased awareness globally of the GM player Down Under, Holden. Since then, the web has been flooded with news of Monaro this and GTO that, with a little Commodore and UTE news thrown in for good measure. Even the most casual Amercian GM fan has probably heard of one or two of Holden's offerings by now. The more knowledgeable GM fan might be able to name a few more such as the Statesman, which made the news recently (Read More Here) as a car to be sold in Korea under the Daewoo brand. Most famous are the Commodore-based Holdens and news about their "Zeta" replacements is eagerly awaited in Oz. But what about the rest? Is it just a mish-mash of Opel, Isuzu and GMDAT design cars not worth mentioning? And what about the Commodore-based cars and "Utes" that aren't as well known?

I'll freely and eagerly admit I'm no expert on Holden, and therefore decided to do some digging. I found the Holden offers a much wider array of cars in Australia than I'd expected. So this go around I decided to focus attention on introducting to GM fans who don't live in Australia or New Zealand some of the lesser known vehicles in Holden's lineup.

But being a Yank, I call on our friends in Australia to reply to this brief article with their own familiar Holden model facts, figures and photos that we might not quite get from this side of the globe.

On to the introductions:

Small Cars

The Cruze:

I still remember the hopeful press releases from GM several years back about how the Chevrolet Cruze, a car "jointly developed by GM Japan and Suzuki" was going to be the car to help them take a significant chunk of market share in Japan and reestablish the Chevy/GM Japan nameplate as more than an obscure reseller of Astro vans (Photo of Cruze Unveiling). Since then it seems the GMDAT Optra Sedan & Wagon have replaced it in Chevrolet Japan's lineup (See Here ) alongside the Trailblazer. Suzuki has fully taken on the the Cruze as its own, and that makes some sense, seeing how the Cruze is based on a four wheel drive version of the Suzuki Ignis.

The car always struck me as something that would have been a fuel efficient alternative for GM to sell in America, or perhaps a more modern "crossover" replacement for both the aged Tracker & Metro. Well someone in Australia thought the design was right for their country. Since the Cruze has four-wheel-drive, it seems perfect for the image we Americans have of cars going into the Outback kicking up a plume of dust visible from miles away.

The reviews I've read of the car seem favorable, and the conclusion seems to be "Inexpensive and fun".

Larger Photo - Front View

The Viva:

The "Viva" nameplate is being brought back to life in Australia, although not many young Australians will remember the original. A small, ultimately forgettable Vauxhall sold in the 1960's by Holden went by the same name. Hopefully, for Holden's sake, the Daewoo Lacetti 5-door, known in the U.S. as the Suzuki Reno and Canada as the Chevrolet Optra5 will be more memorable and successful, but I can already hear the anti-Daewoo factions (the same ones who told us - erroneously if you go by market share in its segment now - that the Aveo would be a mistake for Chevy) groaning at that comment.

At this moment the Viva is not showing up on Holden's website, but that may soon change.

According to This Article -
"Barina and Viva will include design and engineering influences from Holden, particularly in areas such as chassis and engine performance to ensure driving characteristics reflect expectations of Holden buyers."

If Suzuki's track record with the Reno is anything to go by, the Viva should be a winner in the value category and will appeal to bargain-minded shoppers with a long list of standard equipment at a low price.

The Barina:

The Barina, when it replaces the previous generation Barina soon, will be a rebadge of the Daewoo Kalos, known better as the Chevrolet Aveo here in the States. Aside from being "tuned for Australian driving conditions", this car is likely to be much the same as the one seeing so much success in the market here. The last gen Barina was based on the Opel Corsa, which reports say was not as profitable a small car as the Kalos-based Barina will be. Despite the doubters, I expect Holden to sell a lot of these, and even more when the redesigned Aveo comes along in just a year or two. Clearly the Barina in the photo below is a Korea/Euro fascia current-gen Kalos, and not the new Aveo that was just unveiled recently in Frankfurt.

The Astra

Large photo:

I was surprised to see no less than seven variants of the New Opel-derived Astra on sale under the Holden badge. Unlike GM North America where sedans still rule even with the new Cobalt, out of the 7 variants there isn't a single traditional 4-door sedan. 5-door hatch, 3-door hatch, and Wagons are the forms the Holden Astra, not unlike the Opel offerings. The profile of the 5-door reminds me a bit of the Mazda3, and from all angles the Astra looks modern and up to date.

More Small Cars based on Opel Designs Include:

The Tigra - Read More:
Astra Convertible - Based on the previous generation Opel Astra
The Zafira - A minivan that at least on Holden's website appears to be the last generation Opel Zafira.

Larger Cars:

If you want something with a Trunk and a V6 or V8 - as opposed to a 4-cylinder hatchback, it is likely you will opt for a large Holden based off of the Commodore platform. Holden is a master of platform variation, and has several flavors of Commodore sold under different nameplates. Here are a few of the less well-known Commodore-based cars.

The Berlina

An optional LS1 V8 (VZ Berlina V8) in a RWD family sedan dressed for business. Sound good? This car is perhaps what our Buick LeSabre might have been if it was motivated by the rear wheels and packing an optional V8. Perhaps Bonneville GXP would be a better example. In any case it shares a lot with the Commodore, as according to This Article "Visual separation from the VY Commodore is limited to a subtle nose and tail job, a sharper bonnet style and a new range of 16 inch alloy wheels. The Berlina also brings fog lights, full colour coding, chrome highlights and unique wheels (which are very plain looking)." Plain looking? OK, so back to the Buick idea. The Berlina appears to be a Commodore in a business suit. The Berlina is also available in Wagon form, unlike the Calais, another Commodore variant.

The Caprice

Huge, long, powerful with an over-the-top luxury interior. At almost a third more expensive than the Statesman, the Caprice reminds me of what the Chevrolet Caprice might have turned into if there was no Buick brand or Cadillac DTS in the US and famous rappers were involved in the design. It doesn't have 22-inch wheels, but it is armed with front and rear proximity sensors, two built-in-headrest DVD monitors, Navigation, a big V-8 engine, and giant plush leather seats in a cavernous interior. The best, most fitting description I could find of it was "Holden's most expensive toy." Popular with buyers in the Middle East where it is also exported, the Caprice is the ultimate long-wheelbase luxo-barge from Holden.

Large Photo of the Exterior:

To be honest, there is an almost dizzying array of Commodore variants on sale by Holden, many with designations like VY,VT, VZ and VX (and VU Utes!) that must mean something to our friends in Australia, but through my skimming have been difficult to nail down. I want to say that they are trim levels like "LS" "LT" and "SS". But there is a VY SS Commodore that just tosses that idea of mine out the window. And that's not even bringing up the HSV performance variants of these Holdens. Perhaps a Holden fan can grace us with a breakdown of the meaning behind these many labels.

Other Commodore variants include:

The Calais Read more:

The Adventra - An off-road capable AWD Commodore Wagon - Read More:


Have a Digital Camera? The Great GMI Performance Car Photo Shoot -Show Off Your Camera Skills!

"Such a nice, well balanced and fair review that it makes me wonder if we can interbreed some of the Australian auto journalists with the American 'auto journalists' to get a more decent species until we can breed out the Asian & German humping American journalists' bias." - GMI Member 91z4me

Last edited by Ming : 08-26-2005 at 02:22 PM.

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08-26-2005, 12:24 AM #2
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Re: The Other Holdens - A Primer


Other Vehicles

Here are a few that don't really fit the previous categories:

The Ute

Some GM fans are aware of the Aussie take on the El Camino. Holden never really stopped doing cars - or should I say trucks - like this. There are almost as many variants of the Ute as there are of the Commodore from what I can tell, as well as some limited production types like this Storm Ute, with a 6-speed manual transmission, Limited Slip Differential, and a 3.6L DOHC V6. Sounds like an El Camino Xtreme to me...! And of course there is the SS Ute that some would sell their souls to see hit US shores with a Chevy badge and a classic nameplate.

The Rodeo

Isuzu's D-Max pickup (jointly developed architecture with our Canyon/Colorado) takes the name we relate to the Isuzu Rodeo SUV. The Rodeo SUV also was on sale by the same name in Australia under Holden (as was the Trooper as the "Jackaroo"), but no longer. So the D-Max carries the name forward. It comes with 3 engine options, a 2.4L SOHC engine, a 3.5L V6, and a 3.0L Turbodiesel. If you check the photo link below, you will see that it is also available in more commercial applications.


The Crewman

Holden's answer to pickups is often car-based. Much of the Holden lineup consists of variants of the Ute, which is in turn based on the Commodore. If the Ute is like an El Camino, then the Crewman is like a crew cab version of it. And in "SS" form, it looks like something I'd like us to have over here. The handling of a V8 car, and the utility of a pickup, with sedan seating.
Large Photo:

The One-Tonner

A heavy-duty Ute with a flat bed or commercial type steel/alloy bed:

In Conclusion

Holden has a lot of attractive vehicle choices - to put it simply. A few years back I remember drooling at the styling alone. Now, with more stylish and modern models coming out of GM USA than we had back in 2000 or so, I don't have to feel as deprived. But Holden still has all of those nice RWD sedans, wagons and car-based pickups (Utes) that we don't and so my jealousy of Holden continues. An affordable V6 or V8 RWD Wagon with a 6-speed manual transmission, now wouldn't that be nice as a Pontiac?

There is more - much more - to the Holden lineup that I have not covered here (and arguably they are the best ones). But hopefully I have given anyone who was curious a taste of what they have to offer...aside from the well known Monaro and Commodore. If you want to do more research on your own, see Holden's website here:

As for me, I'm hoping some Aussies will come by and set this Yank straight and clear up any mistakes or oversights in this article, as I'm certain there are many.

Previous Commentary on GM's Other Brands: Alliance Partners Subaru and Suzuki


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